Archives For Game Recap

This win was, for lack of a better term, a professional effort by the Lakers. Based off record, the Lakers came into this game the better team. The Kings may have more young talent on their roster, but the Lakers have more talent that is properly harnessed. Tonight, that difference showed and, though there were some stretches where it looked as if the Kings might overcome, the Lakers were able to hold on and win 100-86. The win is the third straight for the Lakers and brings their record to an even 7-7 through 14 games.

Offensively, there was a lot to like in this game. As it was on Friday, the Lakers played through Pau Gasol for the majority of the minutes he was on the floor and he responded with a 20 point, 10 rebound effort. Pau worked well in the post against Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins while also hitting his jumper at a good enough rate to be a threat regardless of where he caught the ball. Pau wasn’t his normal self as a passer (he only tallied a single assist), but he consistently made the right shot/pass decisions, often kicking the ball out to the same side wing and attempting to re-post to set up his own offense. I’m not quite ready to say that this is the Pau we can look forward to on most nights, but I am ready to say that the respiratory infection that Pau was dealing with earlier in the year probably hampered him more than most were willing to acknowledge. Pau has more stamina and more life in his legs for longer stretches now and that bodes well for him moving forward.

As I mentioned in the preview for this one, having a bench player (or more) step up and have a good night is almost a necessity for the Lakers to win and tonight was no exception. Xavier Henry, quiet in recent games, broke out in a big way by scoring a team high 21 points on only 11 shots. Henry was active in transition and moved well off the ball in the half court, all of which aided him in finding the gaps in the Kings D that allowed him to get makable looks. Henry brought his usual aggression off the bounce and that allowed him to get to the FT line 6 times (making 5), but it also allowed him the space he needed to shoot his jumper.

Like it was against the Warriors, though, this game wasn’t so much won on offense but rather on the defensive side of the ball. The Lakers held the Kings to 41.7% shooting on the night and did a good job on nearly every King not named Greivis Vasquez. Because while the Kings’ starting PG had a good night scoring the ball (20 points on 9-18 shooting), the rest of his teammates had issues getting clean looks for most of the contest, often settling for contested jumpers or shots in the paint that always seemed to have either Pau or Jordan Hill lunging to try and alter the look.

The Lakers didn’t exactly force the Kings into a lot of mistakes, but what they did do was play fundamentally good D on most possessions, rotating well when the ball was swung and contesting shots when the Kings fired away. If there was one area the Lakers could have been better in it was playing the P&R a bit higher so to not allow the ball handler to get back to the middle after coming off the pick (Vasquez did this repeatedly most of the night and it was key to him scoring as well as he did), but for that was the only real issue I saw defensively. On most other actions the Lakers played things well and that led to the Kings taking the types of shots the Lakers could live with them taking.

Overall, I really can’t say enough about the way this team is starting to forge an identity for themselves and play a style that is not only sustainable, but one that can be successful long term. This isn’t to say they can be one of the better teams in the league — they still don’t have enough talent to make that claim — but by playing smart and hard every night, they’re positioning themselves to be in nearly every game with a chance to win. Without Kobe (and, to a lesser extent, without a healthy Nash) that’s really all you can ask for. So the fact that this team is .500 through 14 games with a chance to actually eclipse last season’s record through 15 games with a win on Tuesday is worth praising.

Where this team ends up will still be greatly influenced by Kobe, but where they are now is solely on the players on the court and the coaches pulling the strings. Both have been doing more right than wrong and have been entertaining us along the way. For that, I’m appreciative.

After four days of rest, practice, and preparation the Lakers took down the Warriors 102-95 to get within a game of .500 and show off some very good play on both sides of the ball.

The star of the night was Pau Gasol, whose 24 points and 10 rebounds paced the team. Pau, who seemed to most benefit from the time off, played with a good base and strong legs all night which allowed him to really shine offensively. Pau showed good lift on his jumper, leading to good success from mid-range. That success then fueled the rest of his offense as it forced defenders to close out on him, allowing the Spaniard to effectively use his dribble to set up some nifty post moves that kept defenders off balance all night.

The other stars offensively came off the Lakers’ bench. First was a very productive Jordan Farmar who has seemingly left his slump from a few games back all the way behind him. Like Pau, Farmar used an effective jumper as a springboard to the rest of his offensive attack, using quick moves off the bounce to get into the lane and create shots near the rim. On several possessions, Farmar was able to blow by the initial defender and either get up a short runner or scoop shot in the paint before the second line of defense could get to him and the result was some nifty shotmaking that was key to fueling the Lakers’ offense when the more methodical Steve Blake went to the bench.

As for Young, he was once again excellent in providing a nice scoring punch from his reserve role. Young poured in 21 points on 15 shots, hitting 3 shots from behind the arc while also doing damage in the paint. On several possessions, Young curled his way into paint in the half court and made quick decisions to attack the rim in the open court and the result was an inside-outside game that I’d really like to see more of from Young. When he doesn’t solely settle for long jumpers — which can be exciting shots when they fall, but not the most efficient option — Young becomes quite dangerous and the type of all court threat who can carry the team for short stretches on the floor and ignite the crowd with the flair he brings.

Where this game was won, however, was on the defensive end of the floor. The Warriors were down their top two point guards (Steph Curry and Toney Douglas both sat out with injuries) and later lost Andre Iguodala to a strained hamstring, so we must acknowledge the Dubs didn’t have their full roster, affecting how they built their attack. That said, the Lakers were smart in how they defended the Warriors, pushing them to the corners and showing ball handlers and post players a second defender early in possessions to try and disrupt what they wanted to do on that side of the ball.

This strong side zone look flustered the Warriors for most of the night as the Lakers were able to force them into turnovers via traps on the sideline and by picking off hastily thrown cross-court passes when they tried to reverse the ball. The Lakers’ wings — Young, Blake, and Henry combined for 6 steals — were very good at dipping to the paint to help down low and then quickly rotating back to the opposite wing to either pick off passes when the ball was swung or pressuring ball handlers into mistakes on the catch. The Lakers turned 19 Warriors’ turnovers into 22 points and that activity and production were a big impact in how this game was decided.

All in all, this was a very good win for the Lakers despite the Dubs missing some key guys. After all, without Kobe, Nash, and Kaman, it’s not like the Lakers are at full strength, but they were still able to establish their identity and dictate the terms of engagement of this contest. Strong guard play and Pau playing well were the catalysts, but just as important was the team sticking to their game plan and executing it to a level that put the Warriors on their heels. Moving forward, with our without Kobe, this is the type of effort and attention to detail the team needs, especially when they don’t have four days to prepare.

Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? The Lakers got their fifth win of the season in a fun Sunday night game against the Detroit Pistons (well, not so fun for Detroit), 114-99.

I felt Steve Blake set the tone early with his floor game. He had eight assists in the first period alone setting up his teammates on the right spots (like Wesley Johnson on alley-oops and Jordan Hill cutting to the basket). However, the Lakers defense seemed non-existent in the first half; the Pistons shot over 62 percent in the first 24. Detroit reminded the Lakers of their crosstown rivals with their alley-oops (that Brandon Jennings pass off the glass to Andre Drummond for the alley-oop was filthy).

Then the Lakers caught fire. Detroit’s shooting had to come down to Earth and, boy, did the Lakers take advantage. The Lakers turned up the defensive intensity, limiting the Pistons to 36 percent shooting in the second half. Jordan Hill seemed to be everywhere on both ends of the floor; he was scoring inside and outside and he was grabbing every rebound. And Nick Young (who continues to play well off the bench) ignited the run with back-to-back threes. Jordan Farmar caught fire as well (after a pretty bad slump the previous couple of games); he made a jumper to beat the third quarter buzzer. Overall, the Lakers scored 16 unanswered and by the time Jennings’ chucking finally started to pay off (he ended with 23 points and 14 assists), it was too late. What’s more: the Lakers were able to prevent Detroit from hitting the century mark, sending the fans at Staples with free food that starts with a “t” and ends with “-acos.”

Overall, this game was so much fun to watch (I think I already mentioned that, right?). Jordan Hill finished with an all-world performance of 24 points and 17 rebounds. Steve Blake had 16 assists (two short of his career high… and six short of ex-Laker Chris Duhon’s) to go along with his nine points. Blake has had double digits in assists in the last four games. Nick Young scored 19 points, his fourth straight game with double digits off the bench. Wesley Johnson had a few athletic plays that made you think he jumped off the rafters; he had 13 points. And Pau Gasol had a nice all-around game with 12 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists.

Lakers won’t be playing again until Friday when they face the Golden State Warriors. I know the Lakers are 5-7 but, for now, let’s enjoy this win. And we can enjoy this for the next few days.

That pretty much sums up how I feel about this game. In what is becoming a trend this season, the Lakers played a hard fought game and kept the contest close only to fall short at the end as the other team made the tough plays while they themselves fell short.

This game it was Zach Randolph who played hero for Memphis hitting tough shot after tough shot against Jordan Hill while the Lakers tried, unsuccessfully, to play their P&R game against a Grizzlies’ D that can still stiffen with a game on the line. Randolph scored 14 of his game high 28 points in the final period, working over Shawne Williams early and Hill late with a flurry of contested jumpers and unorthodox scoops and hooks around the basket.

If you are looking for positives on the Lakers’ side, they came from the guards as Jodie Meeks (25 points, 10-16 shooting), Nick Young (18 points on 7-14 shooting off the bench), and Steve Blake (9 points, 10 assists and only 1 turnover) all played aggressive, taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them. All deserve credit for playing to their strengths, but I especially like that Meeks was able to bounce back from a poor game in Denver and that Blake continued to play a very strong lead guard with Steve Nash out. Both guys are having pretty good years and even though there are some down moments, both play with a spirit and competitiveness that is contagious.

That’s about the most positive thing you can say about this team right now. They play hard most every night and that allows them to compete. If their execution could catch up to the effort they give they’d probably have a few more wins in the ledger. Instead, they fall to 4-7 on the season and show glimpses of being a good team but offer more moments when you wonder if they will really be able to do much more than stay close in games before Kobe comes back.

And make no mistake, this team misses Kobe. Not only did the head coach say so, but it’s clear that as the season progresses there’s a hole in leadership and production from a top tier player. Whether Kobe comes back to be that guy is an open question, but through the first part of year it’s clear that Gasol (who has played okay, but not up to a level the team needs from him) and Nash (who was playing poorly before his injury knocked him out of the lineup) are not those guys.

Instead this team relies on the composite effort from multiple role players, needing several of them to play to (or above) their ceilings each night to win. Against Memphis the team got that from Meeks, Young, and Blake, but did not get enough from any of the Farmar (zero points, 6 assists), Wes Johnson (zero points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists), and Xavier Henry (zero points, 1 rebound, 1 assist) trio. When that’s the case, this team will need bigger performances from Gasol and Hill, but tonight did not get them. The duo combined for a respectable 22 points and 18 rebounds, but with Randolph’s big night and Marc Gasol producing a line of 18, 8, and 8 it’s easy to see why this game was a loss.

The Lakers fell to the Nuggets, 111-99, after blowing out the Pelicans last night. They are now 0-3 on the second game of a back-to-back.

After a quick 8-0 start by the Lakers, it showed that the Lakers were on the tail end of a back-to-back. They looked tired in the first half; it was like the Nuggets were on Windows 8.1 while the Lakers were on Windows 95.

Still, the Lakers had a pretty strong third quarter, holding Denver to under 29 percent shooting in that period. So from time to time, you’ll get some good defense from the Lakers. Unfortunately, the Lakers couldn’t stop Timofey Mozgov throughout the contest; he ended with 23 points, nine rebounds, and four blocks. We all know the Lakers’ penchant of letting role players have all-star nights; Mozgov was that guy tonight. Wilson Chandler, who played his first game this season, also made some big threes in the fourth that helped close the door on the Lakers.

Denver seemed to score at will inside the paint. They scored 22 of their 33 first quarter points in the painted area. The Nuggets would end up having 60 of those points at the end.

Pau Gasol had his best scoring output this season with 25 points (on 27 shots). But we now know he’s dealing with a strained foot to add to that upper respiratory infection. Jordan Hill helped the Lakers get some energy back in the second half; he had 18 points and 15 rebounds. Steve Blake played another excellent floor game with 15 points and 11 assists. But once again, like they did against the Pelicans, they let this one get away in the fourth quarter despite all the sloppiness that happened in the first three quarters. As much as they had that effort in the second half, it would’ve been nice if they were able to take advantage of those second, third, and fourth chances. And Nick Young, you probably don’t want to inbound the ball to somebody who has his back turned.

The Lakers have been wildly up and down thus far but with this level of talent from that team, that is to be expected. They go back to Staples Center and play against the struggling Memphis Grizzlies on Friday (on a personal note, Friday is my birthday!). L.A. starts a four-game home stand (and FOUR DAYS off coming up) then. They’d better take advantage as the Lakers are 1-4 on the road so far.